How to Manage Vendor Relationships in the Surgery Supply Chain

From acquiring a new vendor to overseeing the process of delivery, managing vendor relationships in regard to the surgery supply chain is a complex matter—a delicate dance between hospital staff and vendor alike. It is no surprise that supply chain inefficiencies are costing healthcare organizations millions each year. So how does executive leadership address the issue and protect the bottom line?

3 Best Practices for Effective Vendor Relationship Management

  1. Enforce a strict quarantine period. Make sure a quarantine period is in place. A quarantine period of 24-48 hours is the preferred standard time to allow a vendor the opportunity to review instrumentation for accuracy. A policy should also be in place to enforce that this standard is met and appropriate sign-off should always be obtained.
  2. Require vendors to inspect the delivery. As a part of the agreement, vendors should take responsibility for instrumentation by validating supplies are in working order that each tray is sterilized and that their staff is properly trained. Hospital SPD departments do not have competency and knowledge of complex vendor-provided instrumentation. This requires vendors to inspect trays prior to sterilization for each case to ensure quantity is correct and the instruments are functioning properly.
  3. Decrease excessive padding of orders. Large numbers of trays are provided by vendors for complex cases. This number can range from 10-20 different trays for an individual case. Observations of the use of the instrumentation during procedures have been reported to be fewer than 5-7 instruments per tray are actually used per case. Hospitals and vendors need to partner to decrease the excessive amount of instrumentation included on tray per case. Large quantities of vendor trays delivered to the hospital cannot be sustained. Reducing the total number of instruments required and processing time will decrease costs while not affecting the quality of care. This initiative requires close collaboration and planning between surgeons, vendors and hospital staff.

Fostering Open Communication and Understanding OR Needs

Surgeons, vendors and hospital staff need to conduct a series of meetings focused on the frequency of instruments used for each vendor tray to determine the potential of creating a few frequently used instrument trays. Additional instruments that are determined to be less likely to be used on the case can be sterilized but remain unopened and unused for the surgical procedure. This will then decrease the number of trays opened and used on a case and decrease the overall processing time for large numbers of trays.

Hospital staff must talk to physicians to adequately understand their needs, and physicians need to trust hospital staff to provide process improvement and potential automated solutions. A healthy supply chain hinges on proper vendor relationship management and consistent communication between all parties. While not an easy task, optimal supply chain management saves money, leads to better patient outcomes, and moves healthcare organizations forward.

Are you working to make your surgery supply chain more effective? We can help your organization identify key pain points and assist with implementation of an effective supply chain strategy. Contact our team today.

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